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May 27, 2004

Salon: New Media Breeding Ground for Old Media Writers

by Ron Hogan

Tuesday night is nonfiction night at KGB, and this week it provided a forum for two former Salon writers to strut their stuff. First up was Chris Colin, whose What Really Happened to the Class of '93 looks at what some of his high school classmates have been up to for the last decade or so. He read to us about Matt, the "stringy-haired computer geek" who became Ann (or is it Anne?), a gender radical who spent ten years living "as a theory," deliberately rejecting even the slightest hint of a stable identity. (She's a bit cagey with him about whether she's actually had any surgery to bring her body in closer conformity to her trans identity, saying that isn't the point of what she's been up to.) Then he introduced us to a classmate who was actually in the room; Ben filled us in on the fight he'd just had with his mom, who was upset by what he had to say about Asian-American culture in the chapter about him.

We could have heard more about what happened after Ben's mom threw the book at him, but Mary Roach was also in the room, on an overnight trip to NYC to promote the paperback release of Stiff, a wickedly funny book about the uses to which human cadavers get put. She read from a chapter on medical cannibalism:

roach.gifIn the grand bazaars of twelfth-century Arabia, it was occasionally possible, if you knew where to look and you had a lot of cash and a tote bag you didn't care about, to procure an item known as mellified man. The verb "to mellify" comes from the Latin for honey, mel. Mellified man was dead human remains steeped in honey. Its other name was "human mummy confection," though this is misleading, for, unlike other honey-steeped Middle Eastern confections, this one did not get served for dessert.

Then there was a passage about the Harvard Brain Bank, originally a Salon feature. Oh, and look for a "5 Questions With..." feature with Roach soon!

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